Pros: No added receiver, DTS capable, multi optical ins, great price
Cons: remote not the best, mid range a little flat, only in Xbox white.
Why the HTS-G1?
My gaming consoles are not setup in the "big " tv room.
I have a 26 " lcd coupled with a Sony PS3 and an Xbox 360 in a loft area about 15 foot by 12 foot. Throw a satellite receiver into the mix and you're looking at a space that could move from comfortable to cramped very quickly.
The tv give great 1080i picture, but the 10w stereo speakers don't do games any justice at all, let alone Bluray movies on the PS3. With both the PS3 and Xbox 360 offering DVD playback, I certianly didn't want to purchase an all in one home theatre package that included a DVD player, nor did I want to drop a ton of money on a Dolby Digtal capable receiver and speaker package. I started off buying 2.1 pc speaker setup, which was passable for a gaming experience, but still very flat for movie playback.
After stumbling across the HTS-GS1 online, and noting that is offered two optical ins as well as an analog audio in, I decided to give it a try. Finding it on sale at Best Buy Canada for $199 sealed the deal.
Setup following the included easy guide was relatively painless. From cracking the box to throwing in Happy Feet on Blu-ray was a 15 minute job. There is no missing the fact that this system has been designed primarily for the 360 owner. All components from the sub, speakers and display unit are the 360 off white. The included remote also incorporates full 360 control as doubles as a Media Centre Remote. As the unit has no receiver, all inputs go directly to the sub woofer, and all speaker wires lead out from them woofer. Each speaker lead is color coded, with generous amounts of wire for the rears. I had more than enough length to set up the system in my loft.
With the speakers attached, I ran the included optical audio cord to the Xbox 360, an additional optical cord to the PS3, and the standard composite analog cables from the satellite receiver to the unit. after attaching the included am/fm radio antenna (yes, this unit does it all) I was ready to calibrate the speaker setup.
Pioneer tries to make this as painless as possible for the end user, and for the most part have succeeded. Simply attach the included microphone to a special port on the unit, place the mic at your usual listening spot, and run the auto leveling sequence. The unit will automatically "measure" the sound from each of your speakers and adjust surround sound levels accordingly. This does a decent job of ensuring that the front/back speaker levels are approximately leveled, and is adequate for gaming playback. I found I still had to adjust levels for optimal movie playback, however .
If there is one fault with the system, it is the remote. A minor quibble to be sure, but Pioneer attempted to pack a Xbox360 Media Centre controller, a surround sound system controller and tv controller into one unit. This makes for a cramped and somewhat confusing layout on a non backlit controller. As the unit doesn't have video inputs, if your tv code isn't readily apparent for the remote, you'll still be selecting video sources with one remote, selecting channels with another and selecting you audio input source with the Pioneer remote. If you are the lucky owner of a listed tv manufacturer and only have a 360 as your primary game and movie playback source, you will be more than happy with functionality of the remote.
The system does an admirable job of creating surround from 2 channel sources such as tv shows, and does an excellent job when fed Dolby DTS or Digital media such as games or movies. In some instances movie audio may seem a little lacking in the mid-range, but for the price and foot print of the system I was more than satisfied.
Although a 5 speaker setup, Pioneer offers a built in Front surround audio mode for this system. You snap the left and right rear speaker on top of their front speaker counterparts and select the preprogrammed front surround option on the unit. This supposedly offers a fairly decent simul surround setup, though I have not tried it.
No headphone jack is included for late night listening. The HTS-GS1 instead offers two modes called Quiet and Midnight mode. Both modes flatten out the bass (limiting the subwoofer) and treble, effectively allowing you to still experience surround sound and hear movie dialogue at lower volume settings. Midnight mode works like a charm, allowing me to still enjoy a movie without disturbing anyone else in the house. A must for apartment dwellers!.